Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Mountain Goats - Troubadour - Oct. 25, 2008

I always enjoy going to see The Mountain Goats because I know, when it's over, I'll feel like I just finished an anthology of short stories. Each song is so evocative you feel you get to know his characters and situations with an immediate intimacy.

What I wasn't prepared for was Kaki King. Here is a guitar virtuoso so accomplished she often makes her single guitar sound like three, simultaneously. It was one of the most astonishing displays of musicianship I've ever witnessed with her nimble fingers plucking and stroking the strings with unbelievable speed and precision. And the sound it produced; all twinkly and liquid, so it almost sounded like a harp.

I understand her background is mostly as an instrumental artist, but she has a lovely voice and I liked her lyrics. She's being urged to write more singer/songwriter songs and I think she does it really well, without sacrificing any of her strong musicianship.

Backed by a fine band, she had an especially strong drummer in Matt Hankle who really impressed me. But it was her glittering, flowery, hypnotic guitar work that dragged me in and made me feel, at times, like I was falling forward into this enticing sound.

A highlight was the instrumental, "2 O'Clock" where she strums, plucks and slaps her guitar into a reverie of sound and vibration. She stunned the room. She had the whole Troubadour in the palm of her hand. And I was glad to see she had the audience she deserved.

In one of those odd coincidences, this was not only the week I was seeing John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats but this was also the week that the documentary, Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives was on Nova about Mark Everett of The Eels and his dad, and I bought his book. Both artists emerged from damaging childhoods and turned their pain into art.

I admire their ability to examine their anger and pain with honesty, candor and especially, humor, and then share their gained wisdom with all of us. What a gift. Like that song where John Darnielle sings about his stepfather "...launching a beer, straight at my mother's head". It sounds funny, until you realize what he's saying.

Saturday night (October 25, 2008) at the Troubadour, John wanted to rock out, and he did. Accompanied by a drummer and bass player, he played songs from a repertory so huge I only knew a few of them, although he ended with everyone's favorite,"This Year".

He must have hundreds of songs by now. Each one crafts a little story to wrap your head around, like a little painting filled with observable detail. So the cumulative effect of the concert is like that of a trip to a museum. It's impossible not to feel stimulated. You feel full and enriched and very special when an artist chooses to share so much of himself.

Probably not as life changing as the incredible show I saw him give at the El Rey last year on March 11, 2007, but nevertheless, a pretty great show and I'm proud to say this was the fifth time I've seen him. I've also been lucky enough to have met him a couple of times, like Amoeba when he signed my CD, and at the Troubadour last time and both times I was struck by his accessibility and unaffected manner. A real human.


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